Matt York founded the Mandala Trust in 2002 as a way to support his friends in the Charan slum community near Dharamsala, northern India. He has been committed to the work of the Trust ever since and feels blessed to be a part of this ever-expanding circle of kindness which has now reached communities throughout the world.
A qualified nurse and development practitioner, Matt has worked on a number of primary healthcare programmes and community development projects in Africa and Europe. He is co-founder of Operation Kindness, a global family of activists, communities and grassroots campaigns whose purpose is to imagine, articulate, implement and actualise alternatives to neoliberal globalisation based upon kindness, altruism and love. He currently lives in Ireland with Jacqueline and their two boys Liam and Jack.
Di Bligh is the current chair of the board of trustees. After a turbulent career which included being a Director of Housing in London, and Chief Executive of Reading Council, Di settled on facilitating action learning sets, and training others to do so. Action Learning is a long-established technique where peers work on resolving dilemmas and developing new ideas without telling each other what to do. She describes it as compassionate challenge, and so entirely compatible with the ethos of the Mandala Trust.
Di first offered to help with the work of the Mandala Trust when she met its founder, Matt York, whilst working with a local Zulu community in KwaZulu-Natal to create veg gardens to be used by families badly affected by HIV/AIDS. She was attracted to many things about the Trust. Her heart responded to its by-line, Simple Acts of Kindness, and to the idea of the Mandala, the practical demonstration that kindness can spread, can permeate, can overcome human isolation both in its giving and in its receipt. Her head responded to its thoughtful approach to using its funds as well as possible in the face of overwhelming need, and by its entirely voluntary administration, leading to an almost nil overhead. Di is particularly grateful for this connection with the Mandala Trust in light of the many challenges currently facing this world, with the need to live in love and generosity stronger than ever.
Kirsten Kratz joined the Mandala Trust in 2008 when she met its founder Matt York whilst engaged in an AIDS/HIV outreach project in South Africa. She felt deeply inspired by the Trust’s work at grassroots level where even small funds can make a huge difference.
Kirsten, who for several years has facilitated meditation retreats within the Western Insight Meditation Tradition, is a trained Social Worker who spent time in Asia and West Africa and feels passionate about supporting those who have been disempowered to express their voice and strength. Kirsten loves exploring how wisdom teachings can foster appropriate responses to the challenges of our time and is co-initiator of the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE).
Brigid Avison is a trained mindfulness teacher, now semi-retired after running courses for nearly a decade. She previously worked as a dyslexia support tutor for students studying at degree level in Oxford and, before that, as a non-fiction book editor and writer. She has been practising Insight meditation for many years, and helps to run one-day retreats in Oxfordshire. Her other sources of joy include trees and streams, gazing, meeting friends, reading poetry, witnessing kindness and generosity, and her husband David.
Brigid writes: `For me, the Mandala Trust embodies so much of what I value in the human spirit – our wonderful capacity to feel our common humanity, to see beyond our social and cultural identities, to witness and rejoice in others’ creative responses to the challenges faced by their communities. Being part of the enabling of those responses – sharing the energy of kindness and generosity – lifts my heart.’
Isla Macleod is a healer, writer and facilitator, devoted to remembering and sharing the wisdom of our ancestors and their relationship to the Earth – exploring ways we can reconnect to Nature and its cycles through ceremony, ritual, celebration and initiation and recognising the future of this earth is in the hands of our children.
Isla is inspired by the Mandala Trust’s intention to support children in accessing their basic needs in a sustainable way, by empowering the local community to come together and create initiatives that best serve their unique situation. Guided by the principles of kindness, generosity and interdependence, Isla is grateful to be involved with a charity that recognises and embodies these essential virtues.
Elizabeth Laird has written more than twenty novels for children and young adults, attempting to bring to western readers an understanding of the situations of young people living in difficult circumstances. She has travelled widely for work and research in Ethiopia and throughout the Middle East. Working with the British Council and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, she set up the Ethiopian Story Collecting Project to collect and preserve folktales from all parts of Ethiopia. You can find out more here.
Elizabeth Laird sees in the Mandala Trust an exemplary model for international co-operation. Working on a small-scale, individual level, responding to need where and when it arises, the Mandala Trust’s values of kindness and compassion, based on mutual trust, enable assistance to be targeted with maximum effectiveness where it is most needed.
Rob Burbea has practised and studied Buddhism (Dharma) since 1985. Teaching since 2004, he has spent many years acting as Gaia House Resident Teacher and is a member of its Teacher Council. Rob also now serves as a Guiding Teacher for Freely Given Retreats. He is a co-founder of SanghaSeva, an organization exploring the Dharma through international service work, and a co-initiator of DANCE, the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement. Rob is the author of Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising.